Tauranga Cyclist Fraser Sharp competed in a Para Cycling Road World Cup event in Italy last month. Photo / supplied 170619kmbop2.jpg
Cycling

Depression may have taken hold of Fraser Sharp last year, but in two months he'll be riding for a world title.

The 47-year-old Tauranga athlete will compete at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships in the Netherlands in September and he is determined to earn a top five placing.

Sharp has a frontal lobe head injury and is classified as a C2 cyclist. He suffered the injury from a major crash in 1993, when he was hit by a car while training on his bike.

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"Twenty-six years ago I was lying on a bed almost dead. I had to learn to walk, talk and tie my shoelaces, but I was ultra-determined to be the person I was before my accident, through my sport. I had a fire in my belly to carry on. I wanted to represent my country which was a dream since I was a little kid. I also want to share my experiences to help others," Sharp said.

Sharp competed at the 2016 Paralympic Games, placing eighth in the time trial and 11th in the road race and had a spectacular 2017 with second and third placings in Para Cycling Road World Cup events.

But the world championships in South Africa that year would prove troublesome. Sharp's bike was held at customs up until two days before his event and he went on to finish seventh.

"That put me out of the running for funding," Sharp says.

"I put everything into this and the help wasn't coming. I just said enough is enough. I fell into a deep depression and my GP said 'Fraser you have to get back on the bike'. It was always in the back of my mind, but I really lost a valuable year."

Fast-forward to this year when Sharp has put in two solid performances in world cup events in Europe, where he was racing as an individual after dropping out of the Para Cycling New Zealand programme.

At the first world cup event in Italy on May 9, Sharp's resilience was again tested as he fractured three ribs before the time trial race and also had a jammed chain. He battled on to finish 11th.

"That [broken ribs] took me out of a top five position," Sharp says.

"I was ready to fire, but lost my edge due to that. But it wasn't going to stop me from giving my all. Not being able to get a full amount of oxygen in was a bit of a problem, but the support I had was immense and that pushed me through."

Still suffering from the rib injury, Sharp was hesitant to compete in the road race but again showed his character to finish eighth. He competed in the second world cup event in Belgium the following week where he placed eighth in the time trial and sixth in the road race.

Those performances impressed New Zealand Para Cycling head coach Stu MacDonald.

"Fraser raced as an individual in Europe and it was really good that he invested in himself," MacDonald said.

"He was carrying an injury so we want to give him a chance to maximise what he has. He has experience at big events and a good history of being a really good rider. He will be pretty exciting to keep your eye on.

"It will be good for Fraser, he was able to be selected in Rio but his call up for that was late, and his preparation was hampered. If he can get a good result on the board this year, we can start putting plans in place to have him dialled in for the Paralympics next year."

Sharp says the support of people around him has been a massive part of his journey.

"It would not have been achievable without the support from people of Tauranga and the Tauranga Cycle Club and my parents, who are my number one supporters. International competition takes it out of you and to be an elite athlete it is a lot of time effort and finances."

Sharp will leave for Brisbane on June 29 to take advantage of the weather to build up to the world champs.

Fraser Sharp major career results:
2019
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Belgium
8th time trial
6th road race
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Italy
11th time trial
8th road race

2017
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Belgium
2nd time trial
8th Road Race
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Italy
3rd time trial
2016
Rio Paralympic Games
8th time trial
11th road race
2015
Para Cycling Road World Championships
10th time trial
11th road race
2015
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Italy
5th time trial
10th road race
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Switzerland
10th road race
Para Cycling Road World Cup, Germany
Sixth time trial